The themes and images of classical Gaelic religious poetry
The thesis is an examination of all the published religious Gaelic poetry composed in syllablic metres. An analysis of its themes and images reveals the theological concepts of the poets and the mechanisms by which these were forged into a distinct genre of poetry. A legal metaphor forms the basis of the sociology of the poets. They held that mankind will only be redeemed by the Passion if Christ's claim for His blood-price can be met at Doom. This can only be achieved if Christ deems that mankind's debt to Him is cancelled out by the debt He owes to our kinswoman, the Virgin Mary, for having raised Him and suffered on His account. Both the ambivalence of the consequences of the Passion and the all-importance of kinship in our hopes for redemption are extensions of orthodox Catholic thinking. The corpus of poetry is remarkably homogeneous. Exceptions are the occasional and anti-clerical poems and those growing out of personal circumstance. By and large, difference in tone is seen to accord with difference in subject-matter, rather than with the feelings of the individual poet or with changes in influence over the period. Most poems contain several themes and several changes in tone, held together by a unifying metaphor. New poems are made by the reworking and rearranging of a limited scope of themes and images. The thesis, in the main, is concerned with relationships within the corpus of Classical material. However, references are also made where possible to the Gaelic poetry preceding the Classical period and to medieval thought in general. It is hoped that the thesis may be useful in doing further research aimed at placing the Classical Gaelic religious poetry in its European context.